Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Sevendust's headlined bills for soon-to-be-bigger acts, a list of whom reads like a who's who of '90s platinum-selling hard rock acts: Incubus, Limp Bizkit, Staind, Nickelback, Godsmack, Drowning Pool, Disturbed. They followed last year's acoustic double album with Next (for Universal's Winedark), which feels more like a retrenchment than a step forward. The show starts at 8 p.m. --Chris Parker
Death Cab for Cutie, Stars
Get there early. That goes for those without tickets to this sold-out show (of course people will be selling them outside) and for those who have had tickets since the day they went on sale. Why? Stars. A six-piece from the Canadian Arts & Craft family that almost always makes brilliant records, Stars' latest, Set Yourself on Fire, is a symphonic pop wonderland, full of huge string arrangements warming cold electronic beats, skittering behind a powerful band and the perfect male/female interplay of Torque Campbell and Amy Millan. Canadians Bush-bashing and singing songs about the ramshackle beauty of sex with strangers who invariably become great friends or better enemies? Let's just hope they don't steal the show from headliners Death Cab for Cutie, whose Atlantic debut has already outsold its 2003 Barsuk predecessor. Be there at 8:30 p.m. --Grayson Currin
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
As a graduate student in Cambridge, Jocelyn Bell--who labored through boarding school after failing her higher education entrance exams--recognized several tiny blips on the 120 meters of charts she was required to analyze from a newly constructed radio telescope. They were the first evidence of pulsars, or rapidly pulsating radio sources, neutron stars caught in high-speed rotation. Dr. Bell Burnell discusses women and science at Meredith's Jones Chapel tonight at 7 p.m. She discusses pulsars at Morehead Planetarium on Friday at 7 p.m.
Dear Nora, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
"Selfish and stoned I go through life with hazy eyes/ And I got a crazy idea for a new art project," sings Katy Davidson, the Pacific Northwesterner behind her sometimes-solo project, Dear Nora. The sentiment sets the tone for both Dear Nora and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, two bands who show strains of captivating emotional levity and sincerity before cuddling into esoteric fits of cute that can at times cancel the effect. Both released promising 2004 albums: Davidson turned Dear Nora onto far-out folk strains that capture the inveterate intimacy of Joni Mitchell and the newfangled playfulness of Panda Bear, and CFTPA's Owen Fitzgerald mixed lo-fi beats and a lo-res bleat in songs about love leaving and cold coming. Chapel Hill's Bellafea should provide a sparked explosive counterweight. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $5. --Grayson Currin
Five UNC and Chapel Hill choruses unite with the 108-member UNC Symphony Orchestra for this 308-piece version of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. It lifts at 8 p.m. --Grayson Currin
The Halloween Express
New Hope Valley Railway
A Ghost Locomotive barrels down the tracks with a Headless Brakeman working the wheels, rolling through a Vampire's Grave and down a Witch's Path dotted with lost souls. Luckily, this isn't the evening news; it's (almost) Halloween at the N.C. Railroad Museum & New Hope Valley Railway in Bonsal, just down the road from Apex. The train runs four times today (4, 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m.), and it sells out annually. Tickets are $7; visit www.nhvry.org for ticket locations.
Nothing usual about this one: The last time Japanese quartet DMBQ played Kings, the band's hyperactive, hyper-berserk frontman Shinji Masuko was hanging from the club's rafters, pulling his black jeans apart and screaming into a microphone crammed inside of the gasmask he had just strapped on. The band--held down by one of the world's most daring and askance female drummers, China--roared on, doing their Sabbath-influenced sludge for an hour that made the rest of the crowd forget whatever worries they had entered with. Expect high volume, topped only by general delight. By all accounts, Shellshag leaves rooms behind in the same submerging dismay: Shell, the dude, plays guitar and stands opposite Shag, a dudette and a standing female drummer who wears her cymbals. Minimalist punk sung across a homemade flying-V microphone--yes way. The Greatest Hits open. --Grayson Currin
KArl Denson's Tiny Universe
Karl Denson has been doing this jazz thing, as a solo artist, as a Lenny Kravitz saxman and with various all-star outfits like The Greyboy Allstars. But since 1998, he's been the center of his Tiny Universe, working the reeds with the tenor and the alto saxes and throwing in an occasional flute song for high times. The band is an on-time, all-night, ad infinitum funk unit, opening the stage up for improvisation and the floor up to huge dance parties. Jon Nicholson opens. Tickets are $16-18 and the bass hits at 9 p.m. --Grayson Currin
South Africa's struggle against apartheid is synonymous with Nelson Mandela, but many others played prominent roles in the movement. Ahmed Kathrada, who fought alongside Mandela in the African National Congress and suffered alongside him in prison, is one such man. He was sentenced to life in prison at the historic Rivonia Trial. When he was freed 26 years later, he was one of the stewards of South Africa's transition to democracy, serving as a member of parliament. Kathrada recounts his life in "From Prison to Parliament" today at 3 p.m. at the Regulator. For more, contact Jenny Warburg at 949-5390.
They graduated from the underground in the first wave of post-Nirvana major label signings and achieved ubiquity in 1995 when their cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman, Soon" was featured in Pulp Fiction. Though their arch Cheap Trick-style arena-size power-pop has aged well, it's doubtful they reunited the band after an eight-year hiatus for the music. This will be the first visit to the Triangle for the band with drummer Brian Quast (The Cherry Valence, The BQ's). Stratocruiser's tuneful, Kinks-inflected garage pop perfectly complements UO, but STRANGE's inclusion feels, well, strange. Raleigh's dark experimental rock quintet has a lot more in common with darkwave than Urge, other than the fact their amps can also go to 11. The show starts at 9:30 p.m.; tickets are $13-15. --Chris Parker
One of last year's two indie smashes for the college crowd comes in for a sweet landing at Kings. If Garden State touched the same chords as The Graduate did for the baby boomers, Napoleon Dynamite may fill the high school loser comedy niche that Sixteen Candles did for Gen X-ers. In Jared Hess's Sundance-heralded hit, such laughable artifacts as moonboots, Trapper Keepers and tetherball all become totems of (almost) hopeless nerdiness out on the high plains of Idaho. Jon Heder plays the role of a lifetime and earns some sweet victories along the way. Drink up, stand up and cheer. --David Fellerath
Just 12 miles outside of Carrboro, 300 acres of lake are stretched out under a starry Carolina sky and you can be right under it--in a canoe. Participants of the upcoming Stargazing Paddle event will meet at 6 p.m. and paddle the lake with guide Joe Jacobs, an aquatic biologist and conservationist currently teaching at Elon University. Registration is $25 per person, with all proceeds going to the Haw River Assembly. Canoes and kayaks are provided by the Haw River Kayak and Canoe Company, which Jacobs directs. --Paula Lehman
Shout Out Louds
Love 'em--or hate 'em, if you like. Just admit, either way, that no better pop song than the Shout Out Louds' "The Comeback" has been released by a label with the clout of Capitol and almost unanimously ignored by a Top 40 bureaucracy that needs a charming, Swedish, non-Gang-of-Four derived punch in the ass just like this. The opening bars master mope of which The Strokes can only dream, just before the guitars and the harmonies--Brian Wilson flair filtered through Ray Davies' ears--kick into one of the most instantly catch-able choruses in anyone's record collection: "And the past three weeks were the saddest weeks/ And the words you said, oh, made me weak/ I'm out of mind, I'm about to crack/ So let's call this the comeback." And, rest assured, if this marks a revival, The Essex Green--the Mergers who double as The Ladybug Transistor and whose new album is due in early 2006--will be key disciples under a big tent. The hooks snag at 9:30 p.m.; bring $8. --Grayson Currin